Market trader’s daughter, 71, and her siblings go to war over London housing estate flat bought for £40,000 but now worth half a million
- Jean Attridge and her mother, Kathleen Bird, bought flat together back in 1997
- Siblings say that their mother wanted her share split between all five children
- But court heard that the pensioner said the flat would be ‘Jeanie’s’ when she died
- Two siblings support Mrs Attridge’s claim, despite it meaning they’d lose out
Jean Attridge (pictured outside Central London County Court today) faces losing her home as she feuds with two of four siblings
A market trader’s daughter faces being kicked out of her home as her siblings say she forfeited her right to inherit it by kicking their mother out and calling her a whore.
Jean Attridge, from south-east London, is feuding with her brother and sister after she bought the flat she’s lived in for more than 30 years as an adult under £40,000.
The 71-year-old bought the three-bed in 1997 with her mother, Kathleen Bird, who had been renting there since 1961.
Mrs Bird died in 2015 and now a court battle could see Jean lost the flat after her siblings revealed she threw their mother out and called her a ‘f***ing old whore’.
Anthony Bird, 62, and Marina Farmer, 64, say their mother’s share of the flat she lived in for more than 50 years should be split between her five children.
They claim Mrs Attridge forfeited any right to inherit it when she threw her mother out and insulted her during a foul-mouthed phone call with Ms Farmer.
Mrs Bird severed their joint ownership, meaning her share should be divided among her five children, the siblings claim.
But their sister denies the row, says her mother chose to leave and had always promised that the flat would be ‘Jeanie’s house’ when she died.
Judge Nigel Gerald at Central London County Court heard that Jean sold her property in Stevenage on the back of that promise, provided her with companionship and, in her later years, had ‘dedicated her life’ to caring for her.
‘It was always intended to be a home for me and her for the rest of our lives,’ Jean told the judge. ‘That’s the way it should have been. It’s what she used to say, “When I die, this is Jeanie’s house”, so there would be no argument.’
Her barrister, Mark Samuels, said Jean had been her mother’s ‘dedicated companion’, sharing their lives, holidaying together and, from 2005 on, caring for her.
Marine Farmer and Anthony Bird (both pictured outside Central London County Court today) say their mother wanted the cash from her share of the flat split between five children
‘She claims that the care she provided exceeds that which would be expected from a child to a parent,’ he said. ‘She, in effect, dedicated her life to the emotional and physical care of the deceased.’
Siblings John Bird and Kathleen Symes back Mrs Attridge’s claim to their mother’s share, despite losing out on tens of thousands each if she wins, the court heard.
But Anthony, of Sheerness, and Marina, of Stevenage, insist that the promise made to Jean was conditional.
It only stood if Jean continued to provide her mother with companionship and care until she died, said their barrister, James Davies.
And in the months before she died aged 89, the pensioner left the flat to live with Marina in Hertfordshire.
Upset that her mother wanted to split £70,000 in cash she had with all her five children, Jean had thrown the pensioner out of the house, Marina claimed in her evidence.
She told the judge she had received a foul-mouthed telephone call from Jean, telling her to pick up their mother, because she had ‘had enough of her’.
Her barrister said: ‘Marina and Anthony accept that there was an understanding between Kathleen and Jean that if Jean provided company, care and generally looked after the interests of Kathleen until her death, Jean would receive the property on Kathleen’s death.
‘However, there was no understanding or agreement that, come what may, Jean would receive the property on Kathleen’s death. It is wholly illogical that Kathleen would reach such an understanding with Jean.
‘In any event, Jean did not care for Kathleen until her death. Jean ejected Kathleen from her home of around 53 years.’
After the death of Kathleen Bird (pictured), her siblings have been left feuding over her three-bedroom flat
Jean – who was given the freedom of Bermondsey in 2008 for her work with the Longfield Estate, denies throwing her mum out.
She claims that the pensioner, who ran a stall on Walworth’s East Street Market, had moved in order to give her some space.
And she says that as well as being precluded by the promises made to her, the severance of the joint tenancy is invalid because it was not properly served on her.
But Mr Davies, for the younger siblings, insisted that she had been given the notice by her lorry driver brother, Anthony.
When properties are held under joint tenancies, a dead person’s share automatically passes to the other. They are common arrangements between married couples.
Jean is asking the judge to rule that the tenancy was not severed and could not have been, meaning the whole flat is hers now her mum has died.
If she fails, she will own only part of the flat, with their mum’s share to be split among all five siblings.
The home on south-east London’s Longfield Estate (pictured) is at the centre of a row after Mrs Attridge was accused of throwing her mother out and insulting her
Mr Samuels, for Jean, said that would mean she would ‘lose her home of some 30-plus years’.
Then chair of the Longfield Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Mrs Attridge was honoured at the Southwark Civic Awards in 2008 for her community work.
She had been at the heart of organising affordable trips and events for young and old members of the community alike.
A year later, she received the Honorary Liberty of the old Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey, marking her work on the estate.
The citation read: ‘She does what she does because she believes that a community works best when it works together.’
The judge reserved his decision on the case until a later date.
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